There’s a hotel nestled in the picturesque countryside of Japan’s Yamanashi prefecture, the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan
, which is the oldest continuously run hotel in the world. It has been in existence for about 1,300 years (it opened its doors in AD 705) and managed by fifty-two generations of the same family.
Empires have risen and fallen around Onsen Keiunkan, great wars have ravaged it, and massive economic booms and busts have come and gone. Still, the hotel has endured and remained profitable enough to stay open for business.
The hotel’s focus has been on customer service, not on growth or expansion. It stayed small because the top priority has always been making guests comfortable.
In Japanese, shinise
is the word for a long-lasting company. Interestingly, about 90 percent of all businesses worldwide that are more than 100 years old are Japanese. They all have fewer than 300 employees, and the ones that still exist never grow quickly or without great reason.
Onsen Keiunkan has survived, not in spite of being small, but because of it. They didn’t expand into a hotel chain, or turn their interests to real estate investing, or follow the whims of market booms. They haven’t taken on investors or gone public. To put this all into perspective, Richard Foster, a lecturer at the Yale School of Management, found that the average life span of a business on the S&P 500 is only fifteen years total. Onsen Keiunkan, on the other hand, has been in business and operating for 1,300 years.
This story is from a great book I just finished reading called, Company of One
by Paul Jarvis. It reminds us that growth should not be your only criteria for success.
🍺 to a great week ahead!